- March 2010
- Many Nonprofit Programs Hold Even or See Gains in Obama’s 2011 Budget
- Congress Passes Plan to Encourage Cash Donations for Haiti Relief
- Budget Plan Revives President’s Call for New Charitable-Deduction Limits
- Supreme Court Campaign-Finance Ruling Could Aid Nonprofit Advocates
- Obama’s $50-Million Fund to Spur Innovation Gets Underway
- Senate and House Pass Jobs Bills with Tax Credits for Non Profit Employers
- Fundraisers Challenging Utah’s Registration Requirements
- Notre Dame Gets First Property Tax Bill from Indiana County
- Court Rejects Texas Rules on Solicitation Disclosure
- States and Local Governments Considering Taxing Non Profits
- Arizona Takes Donor’s Gift
- MA Non Profits May Lose Out Following Madoff Case Ruling
- IRS Gives Haiti Special Disaster Status
- Recent Estate-Tax Changes Did not Make Big Difference to Charitable Gifts
- IRS Adjusts Levels for Nominal Value Premiums
- Postal Service May Increase Rates and Reduce Service
- All Pages
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Supreme Court Campaign-Finance Ruling Could Aid Nonprofit Advocates
The U.S Supreme Court ruling to lift restrictions on corporate campaign spending has drawn sharp attacks from government watchdogs that fear it will allow business to drown out the voices of individuals, charities, and smaller advocacy organizations.
But while much of the debate and news-media coverage has focused on how the ruling will affect corporations, legal experts say the decision will also make it easier for nonprofit advocacy groups to try to influence elections.
And even more interesting, because the court grounded its decision on the first Amendment free-speech rights, it could pave the way for a challenge to the ban on campaign activity that applies to charities under section 501c3 of the tax code.
The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that a law barring corporations from using money from their general treasuries for “express advocacy” – to urge that a candidate for federal office be elected or defeated – was unconstitutional.
Until now, corporations that wanted to spend money to influence elections had to set up political-action committees, which face limits on the amounts and types of money they can raise.
All of the language about “corporations” applies to nonprofit corporations, legal experts say. In fact the group that lodged the Supreme Court challenge, Citizen United, is a nonprofit group that challenged a Federal Election Commission ruling that it could not air commercials advertising a documentary it had produced was critical of Hillary Clinton, who was then running for President.
Therefore, legal experts say, nonprofit advocacy groups – those covered by section 501c4 of the tax code – may now urge the public to vote or against a federal candidate without having to set up separate political – action committees. They will also be able be able to accept contributions from businesses to engage in such activity, Until now, these groups could advocate for a candidate’s election, but only to their members.
Despite this, some worry that groups fighting for social causes will never be able to match corporate offers.
Charities governed by 501c3 present a more complicated picture, legal experts say. Such groups are barred from any partisan political activity and may conduct only a limited amount of lobbying. The Supreme Court has previously ruled that such restrictions do not violate free-speech rights because charities benefit from tax-deductible contributions. But the new rulings gives such weight to the First Amendment that some legal experts expect it may prompt a charity to challenge the existing rules.